The Iguana Cage Page

Building With Wire

The thing I love about building with wire is that it can be used as part of the cage, or it can constitute the entire cage. Building with wire does not require having a workshop, or power tools of any kind. There are only two required hand tools: wire cutters and needle-nosed pliers. Heavy gloves are optional but recommended. All three of these sophisticated items can be purchased inexpensively at any Sears, hardware store or home center.

My personal preference in wire is galavanized steel. It is available in many different gauges, and I have found 16 gauge to be perfect. 14 gauge is heavier and unnecessarily so, while 18 gauge is flimsier. The 18 gauge is useful when the wire isn't used for any structural support, and when the wire is fastened onto a sturdy cage frame. I purchase mine from Da-Mar's Equipment Co. via mail order. (Call 1-800-952-8669 for a catalog.) It is available in "rolled" quantities, in many sizes, and is not expensive. Other companies sell this same wire with a vinyl coating, which I like very much, but I haven't yet found it in the size I need, and it is significantly more expensive.

Alternately, there are a myriad of other kinds of cage wire. Check out your local hardware store or home center to see what's available. Chicken wire is another popular choice... just make sure that whatever wire you use is sturdy and smooth. Wires such as chicken wire are constructed by wrapping wires around other wires hundreds of times, resulting in a lot of potentially sharp little bumps. Run your bare hand over the wire and make sure it is comfortable to the touch.

I have used wire for lizard cages in two different ways. The first, and most basic model, is the all-wire cage. Sturdy wire must be used in this case. By simply cutting the wire to the size you want each cage side, and using needle-nosed pliers to wrap one piece of wire around the other, it is simple to construct a basic rectangular cage. The last all-wire cage I built was completed in its entirety while watching the Super Bowl on television in 1994. The second model is the wood-framed cage. After first constructing a wooden frame, you can then staple or nail the cage wire onto it, or you can slide the wire into routed grooves. This method can produce either a very quick, very rough cage, or a furniture-quality iguana castle. Flimsier wire can be used if you opt for the staple method, but make sure it is sturdy enough to keep iguanas in and other animals out.

Tips for building cages with wire:

- If you do not want to pay for vinyl coating (which is softer to the touch, quieter when climbed upon, and arguably more attractive) you can instead coat the wire yourself. We have done it with a product called "Plasti-Dip". This is usually used to coat things like hand tool handles (think of the rubber coating on pliers). You can use a small paint roller to roll it on. This is somewhat messy, and the rubber does flake off when climbed upon for a prolonged time, but it is an option.
- You can also paint the wire, using non-toxic spray paint. It also wears off after a time, but is easily re-applied.
- Rough edges can be quickly ground down with a Dremel tool. Or you can do it the labor-intensive way: with a hand file.
- I do not recommend using screening for iguana cages. Metal screening is very abrasive, and cloth screening is very weak. Screening may work for juvenile iguana enclosures, but probably not for adult cages.

Pros and cons of wire cages:

Pro: Wire is much less expensive than glass or plexi-glass.
Pro: Wire is much lighter than glass or plexi-glass.
Pro: Iguanas can climb on the wire, giving them an opportunity for stimulation and exercise.
Pro: Wire allows for plenty of ventilation.
Con: Wire allows heat to escape from the cage. You will be unable to create a caged habitat for your iguana with an overall air temperature greater than the air temperature in the room, but you can use heating pads on the shelves and direct basking lamps onto branches and shelves in order to keep your iguanas warm.